WWDC: You’ll need an M1 Mac or iPad for Apple AI

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It looks like artificial intelligence (AI) will be the heart of Apple’s announcements at WWDC this week. Now, we think we also know what devices will be needed to support the new — beta — features if you’re a developer given the right to install the new operating systems.

What is expected

Apple is preparing to shake a little of its reality distortion dust. That magic powder will be used to show how the company has already placed AI inside its devices, and to show how with the addition of generative AI (its own and from partners) it now offers the world’s first multi-platform (PC, smartphone, tablet, watch, spatial) AI computing ecosystem.

Apple will call it “Apple Intelligence,” according to Bloomberg.

The company might not fully realize its ambitions, but this is the direction in which it is going. It is also possible that not every feature Apple wants to talk about will be fully active yet — and some might not reach our devices until 2025. 

But they’re certainly coming. Apple has, after all, been informed by cutting-edge AI research since the company’s inception, though there’s no doubt that the rate of innovation has accelerated incredibly rapidly in the last two to three years.

The current thinking: Apple now sees this AI work as transformational and thinks it will form the foundations for another decade of product innovation — the USP of which will likely be Apple’s hardware and software excellence all supported by AI and trusted cloud services.

AI improvements will include…

Along with news of partnership with third-party genAI developers, these are some of the improvements coming:

  • Mail becomes far smarter. Not only will it be able to recommend genuine seeming pre-written emails to help you get through them faster, but it will be capable of automatically filtering emails into specific channels and more. All of these features will be incredibly welcome, and some extend to Messages.
  • Automatic on-device transcription tools that should make most enterprise professionals happy (most of the time). You’ll never need to argue over what was discussed during a meeting again.
  • AI-powered tools in Keynote and Pages to help you swiftly put together presentations and documents.
  • Safari will summarize web pages, Spotlight improves, new health and AI features will appear, notifications and news reports will be summarized, and Siri will get smarter and gain more capabilities.
  • AI-boosted image editing in Photos and other additions to most of Apple’s own apps.

These tools and features effectively represent a quantum leap forward for what Apple’s hardware can achieve. Those AI-powered gadgets that raised a little attention earlier this year were interesting, but these tools get even better when you can access some of them via the Apple Watch you already wear on your wrist.

What you’ll need

Not every Apple Watch, iPhone or other device is expected to be able to run some or all of the new AI features, and the current speculation is that only the most relatively recent Apple Silicon processors will make the grade.

If that is the case, this is possibly because handling the kind of computational load created by genAI requests is extremely intensive. It takes a lot of computer power to ask ChatGPT for a recipe suggestion, and even some relatively recent devices might not yet be up to the task.

What this means is that to access these services, you will need to be running an iPad or Mac with an M1 chip, or later. These services will also require at least an iPhone 15 series device. I imagine this will spark an upgrade surge as Apple customers seek to try these new services.

In use, Apple is thought to have developed an on-device computational mechanism that will choose whether to process specific tasks on the device or via M2-based servers it is now thought to be putting into place. You’ll be able to opt-in to using these services, and the company will focus on privacy.

That’s the speculation so far, we’ll learn the real deal soon at WWDC 2024.

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